Hold-'Em Poker is a complicated game that contains so many variables that it is impossible to "master." There is, however, one very important concept that players need to know in order to know how to win at Texas Hold 'Em: position. Knowing where you sit in relation to the blinds, and knowing how that should affect your play is an important step towards learning to be a good poker player.
Position is extremely important to consider when choosing which hands to play. Here are the things to consider:
- Determine your position. The first step is to know where you are in relation to the dealer and the blinds. The player immediately to the left of the big blind is in first "first position" or "under the gun." The player in first position has to act first in the hand, which is a disadvantage. The next player is in 2nd position, and that players acts after the player in first position. The action continues around the table in this way until it eventually reaches the big blind.
- Know how many players are at the table. In addition to needing to know when you must act, you also need to know how many players are left to act after you, and this will depend on the number of players at the table.
- Determine you hand range. Once you know your position you can determine what range of hands you will play in certain positions. The more players there are to act after you, the stricter your requirements should be. For instance, if you are under the gun at a nine handed table, the odds of a hand like Q-10 being the best hand are pretty slim. However, when you are the dealer, or "on the button," if everyone has folded to you and you have Q-10, there is a reasonable chance that it is better than the hands of the two hands left to play (the big and small blind). In first position you would usually want fold but on the button, you might consider a raise.
- Determine the action. If you are sitting in any position other than 1st position, other players will act before you. While it is quite easy to decide what hands you'll play in different positions if all of the players who act before you fold, it can get more complicated to know what to do when someone calls or raises. When this happens, the first thing to notice is what position that player is in. Assuming your opponents have a basic understanding of position, you can get a sense of what a raiser has based on his or her position. If a tight player raises from under the gun, that player probably has a really good hand, so you should fold all but the best hands. If you are the small blind and the player on the button raises, though, you might call with any reasonable hand.
- Decide whether or not to raise. If you have a hand that falls in the range of playable hands for your position then you should usually raise with it. Raising accomplishes three things: it give you a chance to win the pot immediately, it builds the pot, it forces other players to make tougher decisions, which will give you an idea of what cards they might have. So, generally, if you are going to play a hand you should raise unless there is a compelling reason not to.
- Decide whether to fold. If you can't justify a raise, then you should usually just fold. Folding is an important part of strong poker play – money you don't lose is just as valuable as money you win. When you fold your chips are no longer at risk and there is value in that.
- Decide whether to call. This should always be your last option. There are situations where a call is the best play, but they are rare.